Google display ads demystified

Google display ads are a powerful tool for overcoming the #1 challenge facing businesses today. 

What is that challenge, you ask? 

It’s not budgeting, lack of talent, production issues, or anything having to do with day-to-day operations… it’s anonymity

If you have anything close to a decent product at really any justifiable price point, you won’t have an issue with sales if you’re well known.

Google search has 1.17 billion users. Having visual ads displaying your brand and your products show up when users search for related keywords is HUGE for creating brand awareness, building mental associations for your audience, and ultimately driving sales. 

When it comes to running Google display ads, you have two choices: Responsive Ads and Uploaded Ads. What are the pros and cons of each type, and which should you run for your business? …I thought you’d never ask.

Before we go on, pull up our Google Ad Specs Guide for the most up-to-date asset requirements for Google Display Ads.

Responsive Ads


– Responsive ads optimize themselves. Google uses a machine learning model to determine the optimal combinations of assets for each ad slot based on predictions built from your performance history. 

– Self-adjustment. Responsive ads automatically adjust the asset size, appearance, and format to fit just about any available ad space. This can significantly increase your reach.

– Low creative overhead. Instead of creating a full suite of creative assets, you only need to upload the required assets and Google will mix and match to build the ads for you. 



– Animation isn’t allowed. Animated gifs, short videos, etc. aren’t viable assets for responsive ads.

– Not all assets will appear in each ad placement, and you have no control of what does appear. Your copy may be shown without images, you can’t choose which descriptions run with which headlines and your description copy may not be shown at all.


Uploaded Ads:


– You are in complete control. Since you’re creating the entire asset and uploading it, you are in the driver’s seat for what imagery and copy will be on each ad. 

– You can run ads with animation. Unlike the responsive ads, your uploaded ads can be GIFs. With video content holding attention up to five times longer than static images – this is a huge advantage.



– These are design heavy and the onus for content creation is on you. If you don’t have a design team or some wicked sweet Illustrator skills, this might be a problem.

– Your ads will require manual optimization. You’ll need to log in and shift your budget, turn off under-performing ads, or otherwise update how your ads are set to run.

– Your reach may be limited depending on how many variations of your ad were created. Without being responsive, your Google display ad can’t fit itself to each available ad placement and can only be run in the specific dimensions you’ve uploaded. 


Which Google display ads are right for you?

Well…why do you have to pick one? We’d suggest creating assets to upload for your display ads in the most common sizes (found on our spec guide) and also setting up responsive ads to run in the additional placement sizes. Get the best of both worlds to maximize your visibility (and thus your return). 

If you need help diving deeper into bidding on keywords, creating the perfect ad assets, or even just deciding what your messaging should be – get in touch with us. We’re always happy to help.